My birthday is March 20, the first day of spring. As such, the anniversary of my birth routinely comes during the greatest sporting event known to mankind, the NCAA Tournament. And when that day falls on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday, it means I get to take in basketball all damn day. Honestly, I can't think of a better reasonable birthday present than that.
And when my 21st birthday was slated for Sunday, March 20, 2005, well, it was a perfect storm of overindulgence - on food, on booze and, of course, on college basketball. It's a 21st that I have trouble remembering, but a birthday that I'll never forget, mainly because of the hours leading up to midnight when the calendar officially flipped from March 19 to March 20.
As a junior at Penn State, I lived in a two-level townhouse with six of my friends - well, at that point just five, but that's a whole other story. Two of my roommates were already 21, so we loaded up on beer and booze for the weekend and began drinking during the early afternoon as I awaited three of my out-of-town friends to arrive. By the time they got there, I was already half in the bag, and the drinking only ramped up from there as some of my longtime friends and I began funneling beer bongs, taking shots and prepping me for my 21st.
The next thing I know, I'm stumbling around, feeling sick as I'm watching a really competitive game between #2 seed Wake Forest and #7 seed West Virginia. The Demon Deacons were led by none other than Chris Paul, something I'll never forget, because a kid I went to high school with, who was a year younger than me, used to always come home on breaks wearing a shirt that read, "I'm friends with Chris Paul ..." on one side and "... on Facebook" on the other. I've hated Facebook ever since, which is partly why I still don't have the damn thing. On the other bench, the Mountaineers were coached by John Beilein and led by tournament sensations Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey.
The game itself was a blur to me. The longer it went on, the more sick I got. I began to puke my guts out and struggle to compose myself - this with midnight still hours away. Next thing I know, I'm passed out on my roommate's futon or bed, I honestly don't even remember, with the game on his TV and myself going in and out of consciousness. I couldn't tell you the arc of the game or any of the pertinent details other than it was a battle that not only went to overtime, but double OT, with West Virginia pulling off the stunning upset, 111-105.
This is the part where you ask how in the hell this was memorable as a game for me. Well, the reason is simple. I felt like I watched every remarkable shot that Mike Gansey made to pretty much single-handedly defeat Paul and the Demon Deacons. That's because during the entire game, as I was struggling to remain awake, my friend since third grade, one of the three that came in for my 21st, kept screaming in my face, "GANSEY! GANSEY! GANSEY!" every time he made another insane shot. I knew something memorable was happening even though I couldn't even control my own bodily functions, and something memorable most definitely did take place.
Wake Forest had three players score 20 points or more, including Paul who had 22-9-6, led by Taron Downey's 27 and aided by Eric Williams' 23. But this was the Mike Gansey show. Sure, his teammate Tyrone Salley had 21 points himself, but Pittsnogle was held in check, so the Mountaineers were forced to lean on Gansey. And boy, did he deliver, scoring a game-high 29 points, adding seven rebounds and leading West Virginia past Chris Paul and the highly regarded Demon Deacons. It's a moment I'll never forget, even though I can't fully remember it.
Needless to say, I never did make it to the bar that night; however, I did miraculously recover and make my way to a party that very night, continuing to drink as I turned 21 - that is after immediately puking off the back deck upon my arrival. Good thing it was a house occupied by a bunch of my buddies. Otherwise, that could have been a problem.
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Reverend Paul Revere, aka Joe Boland, is a sports blogger out of Philadelphia whose life revolves around sports 365 and a quarter days per year. Keep up with Rev at his own personal blog, The House That Glanville Built and on Twitter.